Falcons prepped for physical matchup with Eagles in district opener

Central's Carston Shockey finds running room during the first half of a game against Stonewall Jackson on Sept. 2. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central High School’s 55-31 loss to Turner Ashby on the road last week featured a mix of positives and negatives for the Falcons to pull from.

Falcons head coach Mike Yew said this week he was pleased overall with the physicality and toughness his team showed against a Group 3A opponent. But at the same time he expressed his discontent with the number of of mental mistakes that continue to plague his young team early in the season.

With an emphasis on minimizing those mental pitfalls, Central turns its attention to tonight’s Bull Run District opener as the Falcons host Clarke County in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, a game that should offer the Falcons an early feel of where they stand in the district race.

“We got off to a good start and we knew that we would find out where we are, who we are, weeks three and four,” said Yew, whose team started 2-0 before last week’s loss and hasn’t beaten Clarke County since 2012. “We found out a little bit about ourselves last week. We still put up pretty good numbers scoring 31 points. We’ve still gotta continue to eliminate small mental errors on both sides of the ball. And really they’re occurring up front. The offensive and defensive linemen are just making mental errors both ways that are hurting us.”

Central can’t afford many of those mistakes up front against an Eagles (2-1) squad that is coming off an appearance in the Group 2A state championship game a season ago and is traditionally known for physical style of play.

Falcons senior defensive back Saxon Franklin said it will be important for Central to match that physicality on both sides of the football tonight.

“I think that’s a big key, is you can’t expect them to roll over,” Franklin said. “You have to make sure that you do everything to the best of your ability every play.”

Both Franklin and senior offensive/defensive lineman Alex Sibert said they were encouraged by the physicality the Falcons showed against Turner Ashby, and Yew said he hopes Central can replicate and build on a solid defensive performance against the Knights that was marred by three kickoff miscues that led to 21 points.

That defensive unit, which allowed less than 18 points in each of the Falcons’ first two games, will be tasked with slowing down a Clarke County single-wing offense that churned out nearly 500 yards in a 35-14 win over Handley last week and is averaging 30.7 points per game. Led by a 222-yard, three touchdown performance from senior running back Hunter Rogers (a Group 2A all-state second-team selection in 2015 after rushing for over 1,300 yards), the Eagles nearly topped 400 rushing yards against the Judges.

“The first thing I think of when I think of Clarke County is their whirlybird offense,” Franklin said.

“They do a really good job flowing. They block you hard. They go 100 percent everywhere they go, and for that I give them props. I respect them for that because they do what they need to do. They put time in the offseason. You can’t go into Clarke County expecting a win. You have to work for it.”

With all of the misdirection taking place in the backfield on every Eagle snap, Central senior offensive/defensive lineman Alex Sibert said it will be important for the Falcons to not get caught peeking behind the line of scrimmage.

“If you see flow to one side you should probably go there,” Sibert said. “But I mean I know they pull a lot of guards and they do a lot of things to try to confuse you.”

Clarke County scored on plays of 76, 28, 46 and 48 yards in its win last week.

“They rely heavily on getting people to the point of attack and their running backs are very patient until the hole opens and they get through there,” Yew said. “If you’re gonna be successful against Clarke you have to match that. You have to get the same number of bodies at the point of attack and you have to make plays then once you get them there.”

Central has ridden its own run-heavy offense – led by senior running back Carston Shockey – to success early this season. The Falcons are averaging 35 points per game, and Shockey rushed for over 100 yards in each of Central’s first two contests.

Yew said consistency on offense will be the key to moving the football against a Clarke County defense that is allowing 18 points per game.

“We spent a lot of time (Monday) watching film. We spent a lot of time (Monday) talking, doing some chalk talk, reviewing our blocking assignments and so forth,” Yew said. “Clarke usually plays a 50 front. We have to put helmets on helmets. We just have to get after it.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com